Thursday, February 09, 2006



I was unpacking some boxes of office stuff the other day, deciding what I would take down to my office at St. C's, and I found some items that have stories behind them.

This is one of them.

It's just a little mouse, part of a set of a priest mouse, with a bride mouse and a groom mouse. A friend gave these to me before husband I got married, sent in a little box with a lovely note, just like she had given me a delightful Christmas ornament of a "frog prince" when it looked like we were getting serious (she said I had kissed a lot of frogs and had finally found my prince).

It's a sweet thing, but it's also sad, because my friend is dead. And before that our relationship had become strained.

She was my first time dealing with someone who had an alcohol problem--I'm sure there were others in my life before, but this was the first time I was close to someone where it became obvious to me what was going on. She had tried recovery and swore she wasn't drinking--and for awhile I believed her--I wanted to believe her. I didn't want to think she could so easily lie to such a good friend.

Two turning points: one day we were on the phone, and she said to me that she was having to read the AA Big Book. "But I don't get it. The Big Book doesn't apply to me."

I felt really cold when she said this, and I didn't know what to do. I didn't say anything because I was stunned. By this time I had started to learn a little about recovery, and had been to an AA meeting and read some AA literature and had realized how much of AA could speak to someone who wasn't an alcoholic, it was about anything that interfered in your relationship with God and with another human being. I knew the Big Book spoke to me. I hung up--I'm not proud of that.

Not long after that one of the staff members at my job followed me out to my car and asked if this friend of mine had a drinking problem, that she had called and her voice at sounded slurry. I saw my friend at a meeting that weekend, and for the first time really saw her, and when I confronted her, this time I knew she was lying, although my heart still wanted so badly to believe her.

When she died, I went to her funeral and I cried through the whole thing. I cried for the waste of a human being, and I cried because we were friends, and because we were no longer friends, and I cried because the church had let her down and because she had let so many of us down and because God didn't just fix it.

I learned something about our idols, and what controls us. My friend put alcohol above everything else--her vocation, her friendships. Alcohol isn't the only idol--it hides more openly in the Episcopal Church because we don't condemn having a drink. The she gave me will always remind me of the power of the demons in our lives.

The mouse isn't coming to my new office but I won't hide it. I want to remember my friend, the gifts, the potential, and the loss. Posted by Picasa


At 9:17 AM, Blogger Annie said...

How terribly sad! I don't know how to say this, but really, she didn't "put" alcohol ahead of everything and everyone--she was a victim of it. I spent probably the worst week of my life at a treatment center with my son a few years ago. It was an intervention and interventions rarely work. He has his ups and downs now. He is on the wagon, but he has slipped. Although it is really difficult to remember, they don't do this to hurt us, or reject us, and they are certainly ashamed of failing us.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Emily said...

Annie, I didn't know about your son. What difficult times.

I know it controlled her, but the consequence was that it was the focus of her life. (Perhaps I wasn't clear about that). I know it wasn't the real "her" lying to me. . .

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Annie said...

It always is the focus of their lives. Perhaps 2/3rds of the drug/alcoholics at the treatment center had lost everyone, their families and all their friends. Most, I would say, were there for repeat visits. They drink themselves right out of life. What I felt as I sat in on group counselling sessions was that they were people who are almost too sensitive for life, wounded and without hope, without acceptance or a sense of place in the every day world. Dream squelched, creative people with a great deal to offer the world, if only they could come up out of the mists they had hidden themselves in. I had so much fear for Elderson--and I lived in dread of the demon for several years. It seems that our intervention was early in his disease and he's been able to keep it under control since then--about six years. What I find now is that he still hasn't found any substitute for what he can do when he is stressed out. Believe it or not, I was recently suggesting that he take up knitting!

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Annie said...

I just remembered. It is a brick wall! They sit in the group sessions and every one of them has a brick wall built around him or herself. They have isolated themselves, locked themselves up--and they hurt so bad!

At 2:03 PM, Blogger kay_okc said...

That is a terribly sad story. I know the pain and hurt of seeing someone who is lost in the grips of alcohol. I watched someone break 14 yrs of sobriety slip down into the bottomless pit. And he died exactly as I feared, in a fire caused by falling asleep, drunk, with a cigarette in hand. I can only hope he knows true peace now.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Annie--thank you for sharing your stories about your son and those in recovery. I wish we knew better what helps some make it into long-term recovery.

Kay--what a sad story. It reminds me that the disease progresses even if you're not drinking. You pick up where you would have been even if you had kept drinking all those years. I'm sorry for that loss and hope that he does truly have peace.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger frog said...

I hear you, Emily. And I'm glad you're keeping the mouse.


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